Doubly Wonderful

My twin granddaughters turned 5 Oct. 25.  Their mother and I had taken the other kids to the trick or treat at Ushers Ferry, where Holly, 9 months pregnant, walked the yard for nearly two hours. I think she was tired of being pregnant and want to get the delivery process going. It must have worked, because she went into labor that night, and had the twins the next day by C-section, only 3 weeks earlier than her anticipated due date.gianna-and-natalie

The twins were conceived in a peculiar way, and I love telling the story, because no one I’ve talked to has ever heard of it before:

After suffering 4 miscarriages following her last baby, Holly was given an injection of steroids that doctors hoped would help prevent another miscarriage. The first ultrasound just a few weeks later determined she was carrying two babies. One of them was smaller, which led the doctor to believe the smaller one was conceived three days after the other.

Holly at 32 weeks into her pregnancy

Holly at 32 weeks into her pregnancy

After a fairly normal pregnancy, Holly gave birth to Gianna, who was born first and weighed nearly 6 pounds; Natalie weighed almost a whole pound less. But it didn’t take long for her to catch up to Gianna. By their first year, they were close to being the same size. (They are fraternal, but I still have a hard time telling them apart.)

From the beginning, their personalities were totally different; Gianna was standoffish and moody, while Natalie was quiet and cuddly. (Not a lot has changed, though Natalie has become quite an instigator-partners in crime, if you will.)

The twins spent much of the first 6 months of their lives at home. Holly and Jason were busy adjusting to being the parents of twins, and it being close to winter, it was just a great time to stay home. Period.

I visited them often, offering to help any way I could, but I could tell the constant diaper changing, feeding, and coping were getting to Holly. She had taken time off work to get the twins on a schedule, but being with them 24/7 wasn’t healthy for her, either. Isabelle was 5 and was old enough to help Holly with the little things, but she couldn’t help with the feeding or changing yet. cuties

“I don’t think I will ever get a good night’s sleep again,” Holly mused wearily, as she laid the twins down for a nap.

“You need to rest when you can, but honestly, no, you won’t ever get another good night’s sleep until after they move out. And even then, that’s questionable.”

I smiled to let her know I was being fictitious, but I wasn’t far from the truth. Once you have kids, they are yours for life.

“You’ll get through this, I told her. “Five years from now you’ll look back and wish they were babies again.”img_2316

She nodded, and heaving a big sigh, laid down on the sofa for a short nap.

They made it through the first year without too many problems, but when they started to walk, it was a whole new story.

“I always thought it would be a lot of fun having twins,” Holly told me one day while I was visiting. She was attempting a simple thing like putting on pajamas, but as we have found out, not so simple when you’re fighting two at once.

Natalie wiggled to get away, and Holly reached out and grabbed Gianna before she could get away.

Without skipping a beat, she added, “I love them so much, I can’t imagine life without them. But I also didn’t think it would be this hard.”

I remembered back to Isabelle, who was a very cranky baby, and cried so much that I cringed every time Holly asked me to watch her. (She has since passed that stage.)

“Maybe God gave you Isabelle to prepare you for the twins,” I told her with a smile. “And gave you twins to make up for the miscarriages.”

Holly laughed. “Yep, I guess you gotta be careful what you pray for,” she said, letting go of Natalie, while wrestling with Gianna to put on her sleeper.

But we both knew it was exactly what she had prayed for, and what we are very grateful for. Two beautiful little girls who have added so much love and joy to our lives.

Double the crying, double the problems, but double the love.

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It all sounds good in theory

I spent the past two weeks preparing for a Halloween party for my grandchildren. It was going to be our first “real” holiday party, and I wanted it to be special.  I threw parties for my kids all the time when they were little. But this time was different. This time I had the internet to help, and I turned to Facebook and Pinterest for ideas about how I could make this the best Halloween party ever.table2

I printed off recipes and photos of all the cool things I wanted to do. I bought all the necessary ingredients and props, and I worked diligently to make sure it went off without a hitch.

But as we wanna-be perfectionists already know, it all sounds good in theory.

I imagined that everything would go as planned; the food would be perfect, the decorations, the music, and the activities would run themselves. But with 6 energetic children ranging from 5-11 years old running around, each going their own way, it was chaos.spider-cookies

After years of trying to throw the perfect party, I should have know better. And even with my party planner in hand, there were still a few mishaps. (For those who do party planning for a living, I salute you!)

The cake balls turned to mush, because I added too much frosting (and you can’t “Undo” something like that.) The spiders on the cookies didn’t get their legs piped on, because I ran out of time. And the “Pop the Pumpkin” game was scrubbed because I couldn’t get it stuck to the wall.(It was difficult to make,anyway.) And I forgot all about “Stick the Spider on the Web” game until after the party was over.popcorn

The banana ghosts and apple mouths were okay, but didn’t turn out like the picture. I scurried to get the mummy hotdogs out of the oven and get the meat eyeballs in before the guests started to arrive. Lack of time became an issue, and I found myself getting stressed out.

Next year I will take an entire day to get ready, instead of just a few hours.

So why was this party important to me? For the same reason I had a lot of parties for my kids when they were little. Kids aren’t little for very long, but these memories will last a lifetime.

I still hear from my adult children, “Remember when …?” And the smiles and laughter that follow tells me I did a good thing.

And when Lori laughed and asked me if I had ever seen the pictures of “Pinterest Fails,” I smiled, because I knew it was true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, it’s no fun.

The ruined cake pops and the other mishaps didn’t matter. No one ever knew I had forgotten a few things and there was plenty to eat and everyone had a lot of fun.

I created a good memory for my grandchildren. They know I’m not perfect but love me anyway. I can’t ask for much more than that.

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

Tried and True: Apple Crisp

It’s funny how our activities, mindsets, and tastes change with the seasons.

I can only speak from an Iowan’s point of view, but once Labor Day rolls around, we start thinking about falling leaves, cooler days, Halloween, and of course, the foods of fall; apples, pumpkins, and soups.

As an artist, I take a lot of pride in my creations, including the dishes I prepare. And though I have yet to find the perfect sugar cookie, I think I may have found the ultimate Apple Crisp.

I have tried many Apple Crisp recipes, hoping that I would hit on that one that makes everyone clamor for seconds.

I took a Betty Crocker recipe and added my own special touches. However, I believe that the right amount of each ingredient, as well as the time and temp at which it is baked, makes all the difference.

There are some recipes where the amount of ingredients don’t matter; however, I recommend you follow the recipe word for word. I guarantee you will be happy with the results.

Awesome Apple Crisp

Ingredients:

5-6 apples – peeled, cored, and sliced

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup cold butter or margarine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Toss apples with white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl to coat; let sit in the bowl for 15 minutes so the apples get juicy, then pour into a square baking dish.

Mix brown sugar, oats, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Mix the butter or margarine into the dry mixture until crumbly; top apples with the mixture.

Bake until the apples are tender when a fork is stuck into them, about 40 minutes. Let sit at least 1/2 hour before serving. Best served with ice cream or whipped topping.

 

300

Earlier this year, I celebrated the milestone of being a blogger for 6 years. But that is small compared to reaching 300 posts. It is for me, anyway.

Yes, this is my 300 post, but that doesn’t count the 20 or so drafts I should have deleted, but decided not to, for whatever reason. Many are the result of rants I went on, after which, coming to my senses, decided against posting. I don’t need to spread all that negativity. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’m just not as naive as I once was.

I have learned a lot since publishing my first post, “Note to Self,” in 2010.  For example, I can’t control how people feel about me. I used to bend over backwards for people who didn’t respect me, trying to gain their favor. When it didn’t work, I thought there was something wrong with me.

It took me a while to figure out that that’s just who they are. It’s nothing personal; they treat everyone that way. And with all the different personalities in the world trying to work and live together, people are not going to agree on everything, no matter what you do.

Oh yes … you can do everything to accommodate them, but that only reinforces what you already think about yourself; that you are less than they are, and that’s just not true.

We all start out the same way. Our personalities, our environments, our family, friends, and experiences shape us into who we become. And if our personalities are such that we look outside ourselves for approval, well, we’re kind of screwed. Because no one tells us this. We may go years trying to please others to gain acceptance, when in reality,  there’s just no pleasing them.

Ricky Nelson knew this when he sang it in his 1972 hit, ‘Garden Party.’ “You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. You will be disappointed if you try. All you can do is be true to yourself and live your life the way that makes you feel good about yourself.

We have to accept who we are, all the good parts and bad parts, and either change the things we don’t like about ourselves, or learn to manage them.

And if you make a mistake, learn from it, even if it takes you a few times. It’s ok. It’s called being human.

Another thing I have learned, is that we are capable of so much more than we know. Once we wake up to this fact, once we open our minds and challenge our beliefs and look at what is possible, nothing is impossible! As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible; even the word itself says, ‘I’m Possible!'”

In the book, “Conversation with Gods,” by Neale Donald Walsch, the Almighty Him/Herself states that life is energy in motion. I take this to mean that life is all about creating. And we can create our lives to be whatever we want it to be.

It really is that simple.